Jumping through hoops for the DWP


Frankie told me that it had taken two whiskies for him to be able to leave the house in order to get to the jobcentre. His mental health problems include severe anxiety and agoraphobia, and, although he has been off drugs and clean for three years, he was worried that the stress of compulsory appointments was going to push him back to relying on the drugs again. This was not helped by the likelihood of running into old friends from his drug-taking days at the buroo. But Frankie had been moved from the ESA Support Group to the Work Related Activity Group after his recent Work Capability Assessment, and he had to go to the jobcentre to be given Work Related Activities.

We met him just as we were setting up our stall, and I went in to the jobcentre with him. His advisor was nice enough, but yet again we encountered the absurdity of a system whose bureaucratic rules seem to be ever further divorced from what they are purportedly supposed to be for. She listened as Frankie explained his particular difficulties – there is never any acknowledgment that expecting people to spell out their problems in an open plan office is inappropriate – and she then suggested that he could go to his local peer-supported job club, where they would help identify his needs and improve his skills. She was suggesting this, she explained, because she thought he would find it helpful, but since it was entirely voluntary it couldn’t count as official ‘steps’ on his ‘journey back to work’. So – although no-one on ESA can be made to apply for jobs, and Frankie is a long way from being able to work – she was requiring him to prepare a CV and sign onto Universal Jobmatch, the DWP’s jobsearch website. This, she told him, was compulsory, though not sanctionable, but we wouldn’t suggest he put that to the test.

We urged Frankie to get in contact with Welfare Rights and put in a Mandatory Reconsideration asking to be moved back to the Support Group, but meanwhile he will have to go through this box-ticking rigmarole. We also emphasised to his jobcentre advisor that he should be contacted by phone whenever possible, and he was told that he doesn’t have to go back to the jobcentre for another three months. And we made sure that the advisor crossed out the email address that she had asked him to give her, so Frankie can, at least, open his email without fear of being chased by the jobcentre checking up to see if he has completed tasks that no-one seriously engaged with his future would consider remotely helpful.

5 thoughts on “Jumping through hoops for the DWP

  1. I’m in the appeals process but if im found fit for work im going to have to start drinking to cope with the extreme anxiety it all causes me.Worrying if tgeyre going to sanction me for not being abke to do the things they expect.

    Strangely the esa woman told me her mother suffered agoraphonia and anxiety. She spotted in me a genuine sufferer. She was quite helpful then I got a wca assessment from this nurse who I could see had no respect for those on benefits and lied in report and scored me 0 points. Threw me bang on jsa and all the anxiety it made me iller. I hate them.


  2. There is no privacy for claimants whatsoever, and in a way this is part and parcel of the general DWP approach. Just another level of psychological pressure on claimants.
    So people with criminal records, debt problems, marriage problems etc. end up having to explain everything in public, just as if they were standing at the local bus-stop.


  3. The ESA WRAG cuts have been in effect since April 3rd; the failure of the Guardian (which publishes articles on disability on an almost daily basis) and the British press to investigate how these new chronically ill and disabled claimants are faring as they struggle to survive on a below subsistence, JSA-level benefit, is a serious dereliction of duty.

    If the media blackout on the ESA WRAG cuts persists much longer, the danger is that the DWP ministers will conclude that these vulnerable claimants are adequately coping on a reduced benefit and they’ll promote that false narrative in the right-wing press.

    I’m going to request that the Committee on Work and Pensions open an inquiry into the impact of the ESA WRAG cuts on sick and disabled people.

    Since January 2012, I have been reporting voluntarily to the UN’s human rights office, in Geneva, on the welfare crisis impacting Britain’s sick and disabled. Fellow Canadian Leilani Farha (@leilanifarha) is the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing; see http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Housing/Pages/LeilaniFarha.aspx and https://www.facebook.com/righttohousing/. You can tweet her on UK housing issues or e-mail her at the UN’s human rights office: srhousing@ohchr.org; she does follow my Twitter account, which is https://twitter.com/Hephaestus7. Most of my work is conducted on Twitter and my account is extremely active, with over 188,000 tweets to date.

    Montreal, Canada


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